Clean-up is underway Monday morning after heavy rains and strong winds knocked down trees in West Hartford and throughout the area.
By Ronni Newton
Many West Hartford residents woke up on the morning of Oct. 30 – if they slept through the howling wind, that is – and immediately rushed to look out the window to see what kind of damage had occurred overnight.
If this scenario has an element of déjà vu, that’s because for the third time in the past seven years there has been a major storm on Oct. 29. And while this storm caused only a fraction of the destruction rendered by the October snowstorm of 2011, and was also nowhere near as damaging as Tropical Storm Sandy in 2012, there are trees and power lines down throughout town, and more than 500 residents still without power at noon on Oct. 30.
“It’s very weird the way it’s happened,” Director of Public Works John Phillips said Monday about three major storms that brought high winds to the area and toppled trees on Oct. 29 and 30.
Phillips said that this time the damage is isolated, but spread throughout town. “Overall we got pretty lucky.”
Outages in West Hartford have been hovering in the range of 500-550, about 2 percent of Eversource customers. That figure, however, led Phillips to issue some extra words of caution: “Ninety-eight percent of the town is energized, so where trees are down on wires, there’s a high likelihood that they could be electrified.”
There’s no way to tell if a wire is going to arc, and Phillips said that people should assume all downed wires are energized and stay away.
By noon Public Works had completed most of the clean-up that could be done without Eversource’s assistance, including removal of the debris from a very large tree that was uprooted and fell across Gerthmere Drive but did not impact any power lines.
The tree stood near the corner of Abraham Murillo’s Gerthmere Drive home, and he told We-Ha.com that the sound of the tree falling, which happened overnight, was very scary. The branches came very close to his house.
All that remains now is a large stump, the ground uneven where the tree had been uprooted. “The town, they straightened it up. They straightened it up with a machine to make it safe,” Murillo said. He said he is responsible for getting rid of the stump.
Phillips said his crews are on standby while Eversource is repairing their infrastructure. In some cases the power company will have their own crews to do the clean-up, and in other cases the town will do the work once they are certain the lines have been made safe.
Overall about a dozen streets in town had significant storm damage, Phillips said, and he thinks power will likely be out for most of the day. Affected streets include Four Mile Road between Boulevard and Ellsworth, Squirrel Hill Road, and Auburn Road near the intersection with Fern. A tree on Still Lane fell into the woods, but it took down some wires as well.
Lisa Camargo lives on Four Mile Road, across the street from where a neighbor’s tree toppled a utility pole and still rested on a collection of wires late Monday morning.
“It almost sounded like, not like an explosion, but a popping sound and a fizzling sound, and then we lost power,” she said. She had been sleeping through the storm until the tree came down sometime around 12:30 a.m..
“It’s kind of reminiscent of a few years ago,” Camargo said, when the October snowstorm knocked down a tree that went across the road.
“I hope [the power] will come back because this is a very busy Halloween street. Tons of kids,” she said.
Camargo said she was very happy that she had some limbs cut down from trees in her own yard just last week, which may have avoided additional damage.
Waking up and seeing a tree across the road, right before Halloween, was bizarre, Camargo said. “It was déjà vu, that’s all I could think of, the October storm with lots and lots of snow.”
Phillips said the best thing for residents to do with their debris is bring it to the Yard Waste and Recycling Center on Brixton Street. The damage is not widespread enough to warrant a town collection, he said.
He said he hopes people won’t throw the debris into the trash, where it not only doesn’t belong, but will also result in exorbitant tipping cost to deal with the heavy material.
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